Living the Values at Work

Living the Values at Work

I have built a career by tieing my work ethics, leadership priorities, and expectations around company values. Sometimes it was easy as others were aligned, to begin with, sometimes I was a hero as I entered a bad culture that desperately wanted change, and other times I was painted as the villain as I asked others to embrace change and held people accountable to how they did their work. 

Living the Values at your organization isn’t always easy, but it certainly is rewarding long term and had always helped me accelerate my own career opportunities along the way. 

Learn the Values and their place in the organization


When it comes to your organization’s values, dig in and get an understanding of what they are. The popular way that many companies express their values these are often through single words (empowerment, creativity, trust, service, etc). Although 1 or 2-word values are easier to remember, they really don’t say much or give real clarity to what they mean. Look for supporting documentation that unpacks what each one means to get a true sense of what the organization stands for. 

Once you gain that understanding, commit them to memory and look at how the company integrates (or doesn’t) the Values into programming, pay practices, and accountability. In other words, do they truly stand on their Values, or are they something that people look at during their orientation and never revisit?  Regardless of which side your company falls in putting its Values into action, understanding and aligning to the Values will help you stand out and accelerate your career. 

Make the Values your calling card


Forward-thinking companies will often refer to work that you accomplish in two ways: The What – Your level of performance as it relates to your job description and The How – How you accomplish your goals. It’s always encouraging to see companies that go all-in on the how with some even going as far as to say that they are equally important in evaluating their people and their ability to do more on the team. 

The How is all about Living the Values. As you continue to lean into how you carry yourself and your alignment with the company’s overall values, you’ll begin to build a reputation, and a very good one, that then becomes your calling card. People know what you expect when you enter the room and the high standard that you bring with you and those that you influence. 

Living the Values accelerates your career


If you put individuals side-by-side that are equally skilled, what would make you choose one over the other? If you’ve got a hiring leader that is worth following, they will always choose the person that is strong in how they get their work done. Here are some ways that Living the Values accelerates your career. 

You build stronger working relationships: It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or an extravert, a person that Lives the Values in the workplace will always have better relationships than someone that does not. You’ll be known as a partner, colleague, and friend to an ever-growing extended network across the organization. If you’ve company doesn’t emphasize your Values as it should, then people may not make the connection, but they will know that there is something different about you and that they just enjoy being around and working with you. Your life will be easier as you have people with different skills to help support you and your work that relies on others’ involvement will be easier to arrive at positive conclusions. 

You’ll likely become a connector for others: It’s been said that a person that is a connector (Someone who makes networking connections for others) advances the quickest in an organization. it’s one thing to develop people in a silo, and quite a different thing to connect people together in order to make their work-life more effective or even to help them advance their own journey.

The strength here is from leveraging those working relationships in a way that brings value to everyone. Your values will lead you to do this in an unselfish way. You’ll give away great talent for the betterment of the organization, it will help keep any leadership ego in check, and you’ll naturally lead in a more servant leadership-like way. (EP 131 Characteristics of Servant Leadership & EP 132 Servant Leadership in Action for more)

You will be a role model for others to follow: I love being a culture champion. It’s so rewarding to see how teams blossom and thrive as they collectively embrace a shared positive culture. As I grew in my journey from an individual contributor to a leader of many, I took pride in being able to be a role model for others and influencing change for the better. 

If you are in a tough culture, be a beacon of light for others by how you lead yourself. If you lead others, model the behaviors that you expect of them. When you say to them to Live the Values, they need to see what that looks like and means in the real working world.  Many people strive to leave a lasting legacy behind them. It’s a sense of larger purpose in what we do. You can accomplish that in a larger and more meaningful way as you model those values for others to follow. 

You’ll be given more influence and responsibility: Those that lead themselves by the company’s values will almost always attract more influence power and additional responsibility. This is a great way for you to have a chance to shine in an authentic way that can help others.

For those Baton Carriers that are in their sweet spot and don’t want to (and shouldn’t) continue advancing, know that more influence and responsibility is a good thing for you as well. Remember that you know your limits (Ep 140 for help here) and share those if you feel like you are being stretched too thin. 

Lean into the Values as you lead yourself on your career journey. Your team will thrive, you’ll continue on an upward trajectory of your choosing and you’ll leave a lasting impact behind you. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Inclusive Leadership – Part 2

Inclusive Leadership – Part 2

Check out part one here!

The journey to becoming more inclusive is so rewarding on a personal level. There is personal joy and satisfaction as you see yourself grow and mature and this area is typically ripe for personal and professional growth.  

Today we are going to focus on actions that you can take as an individual and as a team to ensure that everyone feels valued and has a voice, feel valued, and want to stay around for a long time. 

Actions to take as an inclusive leader


It’s hard to have an inclusive team if you are an inclusive leader yourself. Even if you are that type of leader, your leadership will fall flat unless others see, feel, and understand it from you. Here are some personal actions to take as an inclusive leader. 

  • Seek out differences. Curiosity is a trait that many organizations look for in great leaders. It shows that they have a growth mindset and are unlikely to fall into a sense of arrival in their career. Curiosity also lowers overall risk across the leadership board. Get to know those that are on the edge of your network. Spend time with those that you interact with quite a bit, but don’t know so well. Look for the quiet ones in the room and take time to understand their perspective. Seek out individuals that are different that you to gain a larger worldview. 

  • Be present and tell your story. To lead a potentially large change, you need to be present in that change. You’ll gain more buy-in from those that you are looking to convince if they see that you are invested and involved yourself. Tell a compelling story and why it is important to you. Share the impact that your own personal journey has had on you and share the success stories of others (If they are ok with that) to help others see the vision. 

  • Understand your own inclusive shadow. Being an inclusive leader holds little value if you are the only one that thinks you are inclusive. Seek feedback from those that are different from you in their opinion. Do they see you as an advocate and supporter? Check-in with those that you trust and value as well. Doing this helps you find those blind spots that you have. It’s like you are both underestimating and overestimating different parts of how you lead yourself and others. 

  • Learn your impact. At the end of the day, what is your impact on others? Are you being emulated by others? Do you see some effort or behavior change that you didn’t see before? Are you being welcomed into more diverse groups that you were not previously a part of? Are people looking for your direction when it comes to inclusion? Seek a mentor or advisor on who to keep improving. 

Whether you are trying to change a small team or a very complex organization, you are more of an influence than you often give yourself credit for. Strengthen your own leadership skills in this area, so that you can lift others up. 

Actions to take as an inclusive team and organization


Thinking about your current state around inclusion may be daunting as you think about future possibilities. Start small. Here are some actions that you can take to help your people, team, and organization be more inclusive. 

  • Recognize that it is a journey, not a race. When you tackle inclusion, you are taking others through a journey where they likely will need to challenge their own biases and self-awareness. That’s a huge change in and of itself, without even considering the programmatic, and potential policy changes that need to be made. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged by early setbacks. 

  • Include the most impactful leaders. Many people automatically assume that the top leaders are the most impactful. They are in terms of strategy, but your middle managers are the ones that bring that strategy to life. Prioritize these leaders as you begin the journey. Include them in the process and leverage this group for advocates and early adopters. This will increase your likelihood of lasting change and accelerate your efforts toward your goal. 

  • Leverage data to tell your story. I absolutely love using data to tell the story of what the opportunity is and to celebrate the progress that has been made around an issue. Leaders can often rely on their perception or feelings when it comes to inclusion, “I feel like we are a pretty inclusive group and everyone is treated the same and welcome.” Dig in and gather data on the current state of the team. The data will often write the story itself around what the opportunities are. Be sure to listen to the show today for some examples of how to leverage data in a real way when storytelling. 

  • Pay attention to diverse associates and customers. Your diverse population has a higher likelihood of leaving the team when they don’t feel like they belong and are being heard. Tap into their life experience and their professional experience in the organization to understand what some of those nuanced and obvious points are that the group needs to work on. Also including them on the journey assures them that you aren’t simply paying lip service to change, but that you are truly invested in a new future together. 

Being a more inclusive leader has several benefits. You’ll be a more effective leader, the legacy you leave behind will be stronger and your company will be more relevant and profitable as a result. Take the steps today to help others become wildly successful in their roles. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

I’ve had the honor to be a part of some really great life-changing projects, events, and situations in my career. When asked about my proudest moments as a leader the stories typically go down a road of inclusion and helping break barriers for others to succeed in new ways. I simply love helping others meet and exceed their own personal and professional expectations. 

Being inclusive not only accelerates your career, it also enhances your business and elevates others in the process.  Today, we’ll dive into a couple of different ways to think about inclusion, how to care for it, and some of the common traits that are found in these types of leaders. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of demographics


The initial place that many people go to when they think about diversity is demographics. This can be a great starting point for a larger journey for you, your team, and your organization. 

From a forward-facing perspective, your team should mirror the customers and community that you are serving. Reflect on those two groups. Does your team look similar or do you have some work to do? I once had a leader that recognized the gap on their team but didn’t know how to fill it. They weren’t getting a diverse group of people coming in on their application process. My advice to them was to connect with that community of people and meet them where they are instead of expecting them just to show up at your door. Mix up your recruiting efforts; how you publicize an opening and change your approach. 

From an inward-facing perspective, look at the make-up of the team or organization. are there more women at the bottom of the chain and more men at the top? At what point does the dynamic flip? Run the same exercise from a cultural perspective. It can be an extremely eye-opening exercise that brings some strong data points as you begin to tell the story of the journey that needs to be taken. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of inclusiveness


An inclusive leader knows that being fully inclusive is more than a photo-op, or just getting the right mix of people on board. It’s the power of diversity of thought that really pushes productivity, creativity, and retention rates forward. Companies that rate high in diversity of thought also lower their risk of turnover by 30% (Deloitte Study 2018).  

In order to foster, nurture, and grow an environment of inclusiveness, focus on these four things:

  1. Fairness and Respect: People need to know that they will be respected in their work and that their opinion matters. They also don’t want to see signs of favoritism in projects or teams. People want to feel like they have an equal chance to be wildly successful in their roles. 
  2. Feeling like they are valued and belong: Associates won’t stick around long if they don’t feel like they can be their true authentic self. It’s not good for them or for your team if they feel like they have to put on a face or hide who they are. They desire to showcase their unique self and feel a part of the larger team. 
  3. Safety: In order for your people to be their most innovative, vulnerable, and open they need to feel safe. They desire a sense that what they share will not be used against them, impact them in a negative way, and are supported to openly share. 
  4. Empowered to grow: Once they feel safe, and respected and they know that they are valued, helping them gain a true sense of empowerment and then supporting that empowerment into real action is the next step on the journey. 

Combining the sightline to demographics with the power of diversity of thought makes for a compelling team that will be highly effective and one that others will want to be a part of. 

Traits of an inclusive leader


All great inclusive leaders share some common traits among them. Here are some areas to think about as you work to become more inclusive. 

  • Curiosity: Curiosity in a leader is a great all-around trait to have because it ensures that they stay relevant as times change and have a personal and professional growth mindset. Curiosity leads an inclusive leader to seek out different ideas and experiences from others. 

  • Cultural Intelligence: This is an understanding that your worldview is not the same as others and the ability to seek other perspectives for a larger understanding. I recently saw this in action at a local government meeting where one group dismissed another’s concerns. They felt that since the subject at hand wasn’t offensive to them, then by default it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone else. It was an obvious show of a lack of cultural intelligence. 

  • Collaboration: This leader is aware of gaps in representation and is proactive to help fill those holes in meetings and projects. Are the right people at the table?

  • Commitment: Being an inclusive leader often requires a culture change, and that is something that takes time. These leaders are committed to a long-term vision, instead of seeing it as a check-the-box project that you move away from. 

  • Courage: Along with commitment comes courage. It will take courage to step in a call out a situation, the current landscape, or have a difficult conversation with a co-worker. 

  • Self-Awareness: We all have biases. Have the self-awareness to know what some of those are or where you have a tendency to let your guard down or go on auto-pilot is important to lower those blind spots. 

Self-evaluation time! On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank yourself in each one? (Some categories may be difficult to self-evaluate) Ask a close partner or advisor about how they would rank you in each category to get a good understanding of opportunities for your own personal growth. 

No matter where you are in your career or organization, you can become an inclusive leader and have a lasting impact on others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

3 Common Leadership Mistakes

3 Common Leadership Mistakes

Another year is almost in the books! Hopefully, this week has been one where you’ve been able to take a little time for yourself as you gear up for a new year of both personal and professional growth. 

I always find the new year to be a great marker in which to set some of my own goals and evaluate how I did the past year. It keeps me on track to never waste a moment even during pandemic times.  Maybe you do the same (or should start setting some goals). Here are some common mistakes that leaders make that may help you form some ideas for goals for yourself and your team. 

Underestimating (or forgetting) the power of culture


Culture is everything. It dictates who you are, who you do the work that you do and it’s what makes you unique compared to your competitors. As obvious as that is, many leaders fail to link culture to strategy as they communicate to their team. Putting your culture and value top of mind certainly helps to keep it connected in communication. When I was a multi-state operations leader, I had all of my locations say the mission statement together before each shift. It felt odd at first, but it quickly got to the point where it felt weird not saying it at gatherings. 

Today in the healthcare field, I’m always looking for ways to naturally input our values into the conversation to draw in focus and alignment in what we do and how we accomplish our goals. 

Take the approach that works best for your team, just be sure to link your strategy back to your guiding principles so that your team understands why they are doing it and how they so go about accomplishing the goal. Drawing culture and strategy together makes it easier for your team to be successful and do their job well. 

Talking about an individual instead of talking to them


One of the common themes that I discuss with leaders, no matter their leadership level, is coaching. Leaders typically have no problem at all talking about their employees. Whether it’s by gossip or just trying to get something off their chest, they’ll openly share their frustrations and ideas on improvements with others. 

Good leaders muster up the managerial courage to have difficult conversations with others because, at the end of the day, that person needs the feedback that you have otherwise they will never improve. (Ep 322) 

It’s also important to instill that direct approach in your team as well in order to strengthen your culture and team dynamic. Just as you may want to go to others with your grievances, your people will want to come to you with theirs. Instead of acting as a constant intermediary, encourage your people to connect with each other directly with their concerns and feedback.  Doing so builds up trust within your team and frees your time up for other productive things. 

Overly depend on the physical


Culture (and leadership) can be misunderstood. When learning about a leader’s disposition towards servant leadership or the culture of their team, the person will often share about physical items. They are sharing the What instead of the How. 

What examples: Bringing in a food truck for lunch, creating a game room or ping pong table space, or hosting a potluck during the holidays. 

How examples: How you prioritize your time and people, stories of helping one another, going above and beyond for your customer, and how you show care while holding others accountable. 

You may look at that list and say, “Wait a minute. I’m a good leader and I do things like the What examples all the time for my people.” That’s great, but culture should hang on the what alone. Even a terrible boss can order in donuts every now and then. 

Having an authentic culture has everything to do with your interactions with others as you all do your daily work. Sometimes leaders lean in too hard on the rewards without investing in How people lead themselves and work with others. 

Failing to invest (Bonus tip!)


We’ve closed out every podcast for over seven years with the same catchphrase, “Invest in yourself to develop others”.  It’s important to continue to invest in both yourself and your team and your business to ensure culture and priorities stick. Often times leaders will throw a little bit of money at an idea, concept, or strategy and then call it good. Think of a diversity and inclusion strategy. A leader may see that it is important and then see some people to course and move on. That strategy is not likely to have a long-lasting impact on just one event. 

Think of how you invest in others and yourself as just that…..an investment. You’ve wouldn’t expect to retire from a one-time investment of $100. You add in a little bit each check through your career and then by the time you retire you have a nice little cushion on money waiting for you. You’ve got to keep that same intentionally as your push out new initiatives and priorities. Keep investing in communication, education, and connection for yourself and those you serve. 

All of our mistakes today hold a common theme of culture. Overcome these common mistakes that leaders make that impact their teams in ways that they may never truly fully realize. Lock into and invest in a strong culture to see your people thrive and your business goals increase. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Call Them In Not Out

Call Them In Not Out

There are some people that are really good at calling others out. They masterfully slay their opponents with clever comebacks and pointed wit.  It’s also popular. A subreddit called r/murderedbywords has over 2.5 million members where users share their best putdowns and callouts. 

The rise of calling people out isn’t given to just those with keyboard courage either. Look at the rise in popularity of the “Karen” videos; ladies that lose their cool while trying to belittle or call someone out. 

The problem with calling people out in leadership is that it serves no positive purpose in the end. The sense of winning, or dopamine hit, quickly wanes, and you are left with a relationship that is fractured. 

Calling people out isn’t always aggressive


Excluding others in our communication is not always done with intention. Sometimes it can be done through colloquials, jokes, or passing comments. I’ve interacted with leaders that felt that bringing attention to what they feel are light-hearted comments was unfair and overly sensitive. 

“Now we have to walk on eggshells all the time?” was a response I received once when I shared this idea. It’s not that you have to walk on eggshells and not have any fun at work, it’s more focused on being mindful of the words you say and how they impact others. 

Instead of calling people out and excluding them, you’d be better served to call people in and include them not only to build a better team but also to lift up and inspire people on a personal level. 

Call them in with benevolence


A benevolent person is one that truly wishes others well and shows a high level of kindness with those that they interact with. Take that same approach in your conversations with others. Show respect and kindness to others as you communicate formally and informally while holding true to the company’s standards and values. 

When people don’t feel psychologically safe, they throw up barriers and remain guarded and disconnected. By taking a benevolent approach, you help the person feel safe and as a result, are more open to feedback. Create a climate that makes people feel ok to be vulnerable, and builds mutual respect and care with each other.  You certainly don’t model aspirational leadership qualities when you don’t care what the other person feels or thinks about what you have to say. 

Call them in with understanding


Empathy. It’s a trait that is easier talked about than put into action. To be empathic, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and in order to do that you’ve got to have a solid understanding of the facts of the situation and the feelings/values of the person involved. Put all of your efforts into listening to the person and the situation. It’s one thing to know that your words hurt or have a negative impact on someone, but it’s entirely different to understand why those words hurt. You can’t fully grow in empathy until your build a true understanding. 

Call them in with curiosity and learning


It can be easy to pre-judge someone and come into a conversation with a predetermined disposition or destination that you think the conversation is going to go. You may even be correct whether it’s true or not!  You can unknowingly lead a conversation in a way that guides it to your own bias, or it can stop you from being fully open to hearing what the other person has to say. 

Take a curiosity-driven approach instead. Lead with the what and how and learn all you can about the person, or situation and discover the root cause. 

You can also learn a lot from how others interact with you. When someone calls you out (because someone will inevitably will) first, react in a positive way; don’t return fire, instead thank them for their feedback. Second, end the conversation in the best way possible. Third, decide how you are going to take the feedback and interaction. Should you apply what they said, dismiss the feedback or pull out certain parts that may be the most relevant?

Call them in with action


Actions really do speak louder than words. Once you’ve got grown in your learning and understanding, it’s up to you to put your new knowledge to use. Slow down and show others how you’ve grown as a leader and person by being respectful, accurate, and clear in your communication.  Your actions will be a behavior that others will model and it also solidifies what you expect in others. 

Be a person that calls people in. People will be drawn to you and your leadership. The change will be easier to navigate, team building moves more quickly and your results will only get better. There are no downsides to being intentional about including everyone that is in your personal and professional life. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Interview Responses that Fool No One

Interview Responses that Fool No One

I have been a part of some really bad interviews in my days, but I will say for the most part people want to put their best foot forward and show the best version of themselves when they are in the interview process. It’s part first impression, expertise, good storytelling/communication, and embodying the role to some degree. We talked before about ways to ace the interview (EP 113 & EP 217)

It’s fairly common for a hiring manager to run across someone who has a list of canned responses that they spew out on command. That’s exactly what an interviewer doesn’t want; they want to see your true authentic self in order to determine if you are qualified and a good fit for the role. That’s why some off-the-wall and downright crazy questions sometimes come up in interviews. They want to catch you off guard and see how you really react.  

Here are some common responses from candidates that fool no one during the interview. 

Making it all about you – the ego trap


According to a TopInterview survey, two of the most hated qualities during the interview process are dishonesty and a sense of entitlement (or arrogance).  it can be tempting to lean a little extra into your story and embellish the facts or overexaggerate your role in getting a team accomplishment. 

All the interviewer has to do is dig a little deeper with follow-up questions and your story can quickly fall apart and you now have lost a large amount of credibility with the other person. The interview may still go on, but you’re likely done in the interviewer’s mind. 

Instead of falling into the temptation to please your ego or overly impress the person, share what you actually did on the team or the accomplishment/project and what the impact was. What’s even better is if you also share what you learned during the process. What did you take away to make you even better for the next opportunity? This works much better than trying to dig yourself out of a self-created hole. 

Answer the question directly and authentically instead of dodging and redirecting to a different story that is all about you. Highlight your team and give them credit during your time with the person. 

“I get along with everyone”


More and more people are using behavioral interviewing as they assess new candidates. (It’s our recommended approach to hiring with companies that we have worked with). People want to understand how you work with others; how you address conflict, personality differences, and other interpersonal barriers that we all face on a regular basis. 

Have some stories and be ready to show how you dealt with customer issues, team issues, and conflict resolution. Responding to these types of questions with something along the lines of, “I get along with everyone,” sends off caution signals to the person interviewing you. They may see you as non-confrontational or lacking in self-awareness.

There is not a person on Earth that gets along with everyone! Think about the role you are applying for and potential personal situations that may come up in that position. Then recall back to your past experiences and try to draw some similarities in situations. (Does the job face a customer? Does it lead people?) Customer service is customer service regardless of industry. The same goes for leadership. How you lead people and handle conflict is universal across the board. 

Non-answers 


It’s a classic interview question: “What do you need to work on?” or “What are your weaknesses?” It’s also a question that gets the vaguest answers and non-answers. It’s an internal conflict, right? You want to shine during the interview and not give the person a reason to pass you over. Non-answers, easy-outs, and vague responses only frustrate the interviewer. It shows the other person either you aren’t being real or you lack self-awareness with your answer in a non-committed way. 

Instead of lying to yourself and others by saying you have nothing to work on, have a list of three things that you need to continue to work on and refine in your own life. If you share two with authenticity, you can ask if they want to hear more and they’ll typically stop you, thank you, and move on. On the other hand, if you are non-committal then you are opening yourself up to further exploration. 

Also, avoid trying to sneak in strength as a weakness, “I work too hard,” or “I’m too committed” These responses add no value to your time with the interviewer. 

“This is my dream job”


We are all in on finding your job. (Ep 228 – 231) Remember that your job might be your job for now as you progress in your career to your ultimate goal. Avoid going into every company interview telling them how this is your dream role, especially if it’s for an entry-level role. The interviewer will either dismiss the statement, think you are full of it, or that you don’t have aspirations to do more for yourself. 

Speak to the aspects of the job that you are looking forward to, and what you are hoping to learn and contribute in the role. This will come across more authentically. 

While it may not be your dream job, it may be your dream organization. Be mindful here. It’s absolutely appropriate to share why you connect with the organization and your desire to serve there, with the desire for a long career with them. It’s not in your best interest to share that you are looking to just get your foot in the door. The interviewer doesn’t want to have to fill the role again in 6 months as you try to job-hop inside the organization. 

Lean into our interview best practices and avoid these common interview mistakes that hurt more than help. You’ll have a great conversation that reflects well on you as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH